Over coffee, he told me about his four years at Wesleyan, about finding his people, about growing the Middle Eastern Student Union from eight to twenty-five students, about moving from his intended major of math to government, about organizing an event on Yemeni politics where the former US ambassador to Yemen came to speak. He told me about getting invited to apply for Teach for America, which he did, and how he loved it so much he couldn’t imagine doing anything else right now. And he couldn’t stop talking about his funny, energetic, and endearing class of fourth-graders. I was so impressed with everything he’d accomplished in the last four years, and so proud of him for continuing to take risks and try new things, even when he wasn’t sure exactly where it would lead.
It was a unique pleasure to get to see both sides of the story I try to tell here, to know this young man as both a 17-year-old and as a new professional. I usually only get to see one or the other. Like most of the people I profile in this blog, college took him in new and unexpected directions. And as I try to encourage my students to do, he stayed open and enthusiastic about those unknowns. That openness is exactly what led him to move across the country, away from his family, to a small college town on the East Coast, where he saw himself become a new person. That openness is exactly what brought him to teach fourth grade at a school just nine miles from where he grew up. And that openness is exactly what will take him down paths neither of us can even imagine right now.